Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - February 21, 2012

From: Wichita, KS
Region: Midwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Compost and Mulch, Groundcovers, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Shade ground cover under honeysuckle from Wichita KS
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi! I know this is a bit odd, but I am trying to find a nontoxic, good ground covering plant that can live in the shade while competing with the roots of a whole bunch of honeysuckle. I have a few ideas of how to help with the root competition, but finding the right plant is getting very difficult. I know you want only North American plants, but if the plant is an Australian plant, that would be all the better!

ANSWER:

There really is no way we could help you with Australian plants. It's not so much that we WANT North American plants, that's just all we recommend at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants.

You didn't say which honeysuckle you have, but all of them can be pretty invasive, climbing up other plants and choking them out, etc. There are 19 members of the Lonicera (honeysuckle) genus native to North America, but only 2 native to Kansas. We chose Lonicera sempervirens (Coral honeysuckle) to use for an example; probably, if that is not what you have, it is closely enough related. You can follow the plant link to see what sunlight (or lack of same), soils, water and so forth that plant requires. Then, we will go from there searching for low-growing groundcovers that tolerate the same conditions. To do this, we will go first to our Native Plant Database, search on Kansas, "herbs" (herbaceous blooming plants) under Habit or General Appearance as well as "shade" under Light Requirements, and "0 to 1 ft" under Height. Then we will repeat the process, selecting "grasses or grass-like." This may give us zero answers or some you might not care for. Whether or not anything we find can compete with the honeysuckle, we don't know. We found 23 herbaceous plants that suited the qualifications  and have chosen 6 to list, but only 2 grasses, and neither seemed suitable. Follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant to learn more about it. You can also use the search technique we are demonstrating to look for other plants that you may prefer.

If all else fails, may we suggest some mulch? A good quality shredded hardwood mulch will protect the roots of the honeysuckle from heat and cold, be attractive, hold moisture in, and as it decomposes, add to the quality of the dirt. Please read our How-To Article on Under Cover with Mulch.

Low-growing herbaceous plants:

Cardamine concatenata (Cutleaf toothwort)

Camassia scilloides (Atlantic camas)

Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman's breeches)

Erythronium albidum (White troutlily)

Phlox divaricata (Wild blue phlox)

Viola missouriensis (Missouri violet)

 

From the Image Gallery


Cutleaf toothwort
Cardamine concatenata

Atlantic camas
Camassia scilloides

Dutchman's breeches
Dicentra cucullaria

White troutlily
Erythronium albidum

Wild blue phlox
Phlox divaricata

Missouri violet
Viola missouriensis

More Non-Natives Questions

Non native crape myrtle changing bloom colors in Sonora CA
September 05, 2012 - I have a Red Rocket Crape Myrtle that was planted a little over a year ago. Last year the bloom was a beautiful deep red and this year it is a Mauvie pink. Is there something I can do to bring it back...
view the full question and answer

Problems with beheaded non-native Gerbera daisies in Cooperstown, NY
May 31, 2009 - I planted my gerberas in my perennial bed - as usual. Something is beheading them and leaving the blooms along side the plant. Some of the bloom is eaten but most of it is right there. I have t...
view the full question and answer

Non-native Concord grapes in Hilo, Hawaii
September 10, 2009 - Hi, I live in a area that does not freeze over winter, and humidity is quite high. Do you think that Concord grapes will fruit?
view the full question and answer

Protecting a non-native Meyer Lemon from Freezing in Austin
January 05, 2013 - What is the best way to protect my Meyer Lemon tree from freezing Austin weather? It has been planted in my yard for 1 year and is about 4 feet high
view the full question and answer

Transplant time for small smoke tree from Battle Ground WA
June 01, 2014 - When do I transplant a smoke tree that is still young, about a foot high? It is too close to a fence, which I fear will be a problem as it gets big. I live in Battle Ground, WA which is zone 6.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.